By Andrea Swalec
MANHATTAN — A historic vote on legalizing same-sex marriage in New York could be near as GOP senators expected to meet Thursday to discuss the issue.
"[We] will be conferencing [on] the issue of gay marriage later today," said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of his Republican caucus, according to the New York Post.
Skelos refused to say when a decision on marriage could be reached.
Senate leaders say that legislators are nearing an agreement on provisions protecting religious organizations, a major sticking point for Republicans.
Those provisions would prevent religious groups that refuse to marry or cater to same-sex couples from being sued or stripped of their tax exemptions or property-tax breaks.
"We're close on language that I believe satisfactorily addresses the issue," Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island), who remains undecided on the issue, told the New York Daily News Wednesday.
Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver confirmed Wednesday that they had seen draft amendments of strengthened religious exemptions, the Post reported.
Only one more senator needs to commit to voting for the measure to make New York the sixth state to approve same-sex marriages.
Any Republican who chooses to support the bill faces tough opposition. Sen. Skelos has threatened to withdraw GOP support from any senator who casts a "yes" vote.
Supporters and opponents of the bill, meanwhile, have been in high gear, protesting at the capital daily.
Same-sex marriage supporters plan to demonstrate outside a fundraising gala President Barack Obama is speaking at Thursday evening at the Sheraton New York on Seventh Avenue and 53rd Street.
"With the majority of Americans now supporting the extension of marriage rights, there is no reason to delay or deny full equality to ALL LGBT Americans any longer," national LGBT civil rights organization Queer Rising said in a press release about the demonstration.